Impact Investing in Africa: Opportunity for the Continent and for Investors
“Africa rising,” “the continent of the future,” “the next investment frontier” are all the narratives that we hear describing the African continent. Looking back, there remains much to be done especially in solving the day-to-day problems that the inhabitants of the continent face.
This is not to say that nothing has been achieved—more than 300 million people have been rescued from poverty in the last 15 years.
The point I am keen to make is that Africa and the Global South in general need more intervention, which are not plain vanilla solutions. We have a situation where social investments are competing with commercial investments, since there is a deficit of financing for both. The solution, I posit, is to be found in impact investing, which allows an investor to get their fair return while changing lives of people in the process.
Business as usual will not solve the challenges that we as Africans are facing at this moment. It has to be “business unusual” and one way to get this is through the shift from traditional investments and charity giving to a more deliberate method that combines impact investing or purpose-driven investing.
I have been privileged to travel to different corners of the globe and seen the different ways in which impact-focused investing has transformed lives.
What we need now is for people like me to share these experiences in a way that can guide new investors coming into Africa—by offering them a local view of business and the requirements needed before venturing into the market.
All indicators show that the continent has the potential to make the next great leap forward, similar to what the Asian Tiger economies did in decades past. The role of impact investing will likely act as catalyst for economic growth the labour force, the fastest-expanding in the world at a rate exceeding that of China and India.
The continent’s population is projected to reach 2 billion people by 2050 and will surpass that of China and India by 2040. Additionally, Africa’s consumer markets are expected to increase in size dramatically in the coming decades.
Indeed, the per capita income average for Africa is expected to reach about US$4,500 by 2030. As a result, the African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates that consumer spending in Africa will reach US$2.2 trillion by 2030.
The funds looking for a slice of this pie should focus their investments in in scalable business models to improve access to services and products in areas such as education, health, agriculture, energy, and information and communication technologies.
Identifying areas that have gaps to invest in can be guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN. The existing and potential players in the impact investment space includes family offices, insurance companies, banks, diversified financial institutions, pension funds, and high net-worth persons.
Some of these investors have ignored Africa in the past, and their current entrance is offering hope that areas such as healthcare and education can finally get the investment they desperately need.
Africans living in the diaspora are also making a strong showing, and are increasingly aware that they can earn returns while helping their people back home.
It is my hope that sustained debate on the topic of impact investing in Africa will open the eyes of even more people to the opportunities that lie here both for them and for the target community.
Edward Mungai, author of the forthcoming Impact Investing in Africa, is renowned across Europe and Africa for his deep experience in and knowledge of African entrepreneurship and investment. Mungai is CEO of the Kenya Climate Innovation Center, the green microbusiness incubator affiliated with the World Bank. Previously, Mungai led investments in Africa and elsewhere for the Danish International Investment Funds. Mungai speaks frequently to audiences in Africa, Europe, and the United States on sustainable African development and impact investment.